Three-dimensional reconstruction of helical polymers.

Edward H Egelman


The field of three-dimensional electron microscopy began more than 45years ago with a reconstruction of a helical phage tail, and helical polymers continue to be important objects for three-dimensional reconstruction due to the centrality of helical protein and nucleoprotein polymers in all aspects of biology. We are now witnessing a fundamental revolution in this area, made possible by direct electron detectors, which has led to near-atomic resolution for a number of important helical structures. Most importantly, the possibility of achieving such resolution routinely for a vast number of helical samples is within our reach. One of the main problems in helical reconstruction, ambiguities in assigning the helical symmetry, is overcome when one reaches a resolution where secondary structure is clearly visible. However, obstacles still exist due to the intrinsic variability within many helical filaments.